Somewhere in the stretch of the morning, sandwiched in between getting the kids ready for the day, and filling up breakfast bowls, and changing diapers, and making beds, and following Alfie around who makes a trail of toys or crumbs wherever he goes, I like to do one thing to boost my sprits and set the tone for my day.
I have found that stirring up my mind with something thought-provoking at the beginning of what is a long stretch of taking care of kids really helps fill me up and ground me with a fresh perspective. While in the midst of mothering three little ones at home, I like to think of this as a slice of something special just for me. Like a cold drink of ice water on a hot day, this one thing quenches my thirst in so many ways. Granted, I usually have to press pause a more than a handful of times and put down whatever I am reading just about every other minute it seems to negotiate a sibling squabble or wipe up something sticky, but I still make time to do this one thing here at home simply because it matters.
With that, here are a few rules I have set in place for my one thing:
- It must positive. – No discouraging news shows. No downer headlines. No social media scrolls. Picking something positive that is going to spill over into my day is very crucial. Although knowing what’s going on locally and globally is important to me, starting my day reading about the various tragedies and sadness does not personally propel me into a state of peace and calm. It does the opposite, so I chose positivity instead.
- It must challenge me. – I love learning. This is probably the underlining reason I became a teacher. I quite enjoy sinking my teeth into something that helps open my mind and dig deeper into topics that I know little about or want to further explore. This makes date nights and lingering evenings after the kids have gone to bed so fun because Andrew and I will get lost in topics that revolve around something other than our three, which as you parents know, it what can very easily happen on nights out (or even in!) with the husband!
- It must be relatively short. – Because let’s be real here, I don’t have heaps of time to read about cognitive development theories or the delicate balance between being busy and practicing the art of stillness. With that in mind, I like to keep whatever I am going to listen to or read in the morning less than one hour or so.
And that’s it. I also like to keep my journal nearby to jot things down that make me go “ah ha!” or quotes that I know will linger and will invite me to revisit them later on that day or week. I keep that journal handy because it always seems like I am wanting to ponder something from my one thing morning sessions throughout the week.
And what about the kids? What do I do with my three little rascals? I know this must be in the back of your minds, how in the heck does she listen to a podcast with three small ones who are very much dependent on her for pretty much everything? Well, I make time because it’s important to me so I’ll do my best to set them up with something engaging that gives me a moment to recharge. I think it makes me a better mom, at least a more patient one when I make sure to carve out some “mama time” thought the day.
Here are a few things I’ll do to give me time for my one thing:
- Let them explore and play outside. Our backyard in fenced in and full of green garden nooks and flowery spots for the kids to explore and go on adventures. Because the mornings here are not too hot right now, we’ll set up camp out there with a blanket full of books and toys and chalk. I let them have at it and as long as I make a big fuss about how cool it is that we are outside with all these activities, they usually buy it. Sometimes we’ll head to the porch to play or the front yard where I can watch them from our rocking chairs. Either way, giving the kids time to be outside is almost always my default unless the weather is crumby and they love it just as much as I.
- A sharpie/acrylic paint-free craft station. A month ago I would have just typed craft station, but recent experiences have taught me that small children can paint/market many, many things very, very quickly (and sneakily) in a small amount of time with mama in the other room. Acrylic paint and permanent markers are now a “must do with mama” craft. With that being said, watercolors, wax crayons, colored pencils, stencils, chalk, glue sticks, very dull scissors, odds and ends like pasta noodles and stationary scraps, and of course craft paper are all great. I put on Raffi and let them make all the things.
- Good ol’ nap time – Yessss, I could be sweeping remnants of breakfast under the table or folding onesies or prepping for supper, but this time is a wonderful one to rest, and by rest I mean sit down and sink into something worthy and wonderful and recharging. Right now we are on an odd nap time schedule. Alfie takes two naps, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Theodore takes one long afternoon nap, and Stella does quiet time while the boys are asleep. This gives me about an hour or so with the kids in their beds to tend to whatever I need to, which some days means revisiting said thing I started in the morning. But because I really enjoy beginning my day with my one thing, I sometimes do this when Alfie naps.
- An episode a semi–educational show. We are not big screen people during the day, but we do love a show now and again. Here are a handful of ones we love around here, especially in the mornings while they are playing with their toys. This bunch is a round up of old school gems, for reasons I am sure I don’t need to dive into here, other than they’re fantastic:
- Sesame Street
- Daniele Tiger’s Neighborhood
- Little Einsteins
- Little Bear…sigh
- Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
- And last but not least, play-dough & molding clay. We are big fans of this creative stuff. I like giving Stella fun themes like “the zoo” or “the farmer’s market” and she will create objects or animals to go along with that.
And now onto the meat of this post, the good stuff, a few things to get you started so you too can have your one thing in the morning! Some of these gems are podcasts, some are articles, some are books, and some are videos…take your pick and enjoy. I will be updating this and sharing more with you as I go along, and feel free to share some new things with me. I’d really love that.
- Pico Iyre on What Leonard Cohen Teaches Us about Presence and the Art of Stillness by Maria Popova | Brainpickings
- The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi | On Being
- How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence over Productivity by Maria Popova | Brainpickings
- The Joy of Quiet by Pico Iyre | The New York Times
- Books (pick a chapter or two for this morning exercise):
If you start doing this, make sure to stop back and let me know how it’s going!